INDIA: Is the largest democracy in the world really a control free democracy?

With India hosting the world’s largest election of 2019, it brings to light the republic that has established after centuries of British imperial rule. In the summer of 2019, the country will decide its next ruling party with the polls from 28 states and union territories across 543 constituencies. With a population of 1.22 billion spanning across culturally manifold states where more than 60% of the population belongs to the lower strata of the society, the pressure to focus on the development of the crowd is a task of both anticipation and luck.

However, with the first week of polls starting in April, there have already been issues faced with the votes being given till midnight in Andhra Pradesh, poll stations violence in West Bengal, Income Tax department seizing humongous size gold stacked for bribery in Tamil Nadu to various EVM machine malfunctions throughout the country.

Now, the question that arises is – the government that holds pride and power to carry forward the world’s sixth largest economy – really works for the people that it is supposed to represent? Is the freedom applauded to the people has truthfully been obtained?

In August 1947, India gained its independence from the Imperial British Empire with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru being instated as its first Prime Minister. Nevertheless, the process of independence was bloody with the partition of the country into India and Pakistan in the North and the trouble of bringing together over 550 princely states to serve as one nation. While Nehru preached of ‘one nation’ and ‘unity in the diversity’ of the new country, the fact remained that various communities and kingdoms had been neglected and the constitution was formed in a hurry to cater to the rising population.India-election - streettrotter

Bringing together the people under the name of “Hindustan” in itself was a breach of their practicing values and beliefs. Addressing the country as such seemed to cater to the Hindu majority population questioning the underlying heritage of ‘unity in diversity’ of the country.

For instance, let’s take the case of Kashmir which remains a state of dispute with Pakistan even after 72 years of the formation of both the countries. The Muslim majority state of Kashmir was ruled by Maharaja Singh during the time of India’s independence. Rather than joining a new nation, Singh wanted independence for his own state due to which an agreement was signed with Pakistan to continue trade with the newly formed nation.

As the unrest rose, Pakistan pressurized the state into joining the country and much of western Kashmir became a land of Pakistani invasion. To fend off the invasion, Singh sought India’s military assistance signing the ‘Instrument of Accession’ in October 1947 which promised the alignment of the state to the Dominion of India. The contract stated that the state would function as an independent one and sought rights for its own people except for the control over the defence, communication and foreign affairs. This has marked a plot hole in the development of the decisions in the Indian Parliament over the years and Kashmir continues to remain a disputed region between the neighboring countries.

When Jawaharlal Nehru took to the seat, the issue also arose as to where the capital of the country would be placed wherein the first option went to the state of Delhi and Hindi to be announced as a national language. However, with that, the southern and non-Hindi speaking princely states demanded freedom of their own and complained of neglect, breaking out years of a cold war between the Northern and the Southern states of the country. The linguistic division of the states added fuel to the fire when Hindi was sought to as the national language.

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Voters outside the Town Hall in Delhi during polling in the Assembly elections in December 1934

In 2014, the Indian Government that had been ruled by the Indian National Congress for nearly 70 years came to an end with the rise of Hindu winged party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Mr. Narendra Modi who became the prime minister of the nation. While Congress had been deemed as a party with its privileges arising from its Gandhi-Nehru dynasty background, people sought to BJP and Modi who had been the Chief Minister of Gujarat for two continuous terms as a messiah for change.

Nevertheless, with the new party taking up the role as a ruling party arose the dilemma about the rising sense of Hinduism among citizens. Intolerance and symbolic ignorance had seen a rise over the past 4 years.

In 2017, the Madras High court proposed a ban in cow slaughter causing a trifle across the states. While the cow is considered holy in the Hindu religion, the ban affected the meat and leather industry of the country which has been dominated by the minority Muslim population. Several states including the southern state of Kerala stood opposed to the ban as the major fuel for its food industry stands dependent upon its beef. Moreover, India is the largest exporter of beef with annual exports worth $4 billion; the ban affects the livelihood of many such people involved in the industry.

After the rise of PM Modi, many states had openly criminalized beef consumption such as Gujarat putting a life imprisonment penalty while many vigilante groups terming themselves as protectors of cattle continued to assault cattle traders across the country. Many critics have termed the law as a way to appease to the Hindu majority of the nation and have questioned whether banning beef paves way for ‘food fascism’ in the country.India-beef ban - streettrotter Many critics have also argued that this turn of events brings to light PM Modi’s conduct in the Gujarat communal riots of 2001. The state may have developed under his governance but when the real help was needed when preaching tolerance between communities, how valuable was the Modi Government then?

However, communal violence is not a new subject to the Indians. In the February month of 2019, the state of Kashmir underwent a terrorist tragedy where 44 army soldiers were martyred due to a suicidal bomb blast near their carriage in Pulwama.

While the terrorist group took quick responsibility for it, the common masses were quicker to deem Kashmiri Muslims as the main cause. For the next few months to come, many Kashmiris were humiliated and harassed across the state due to their assumed connection with the Pakistan based terrorist groups. Young Indians also did not shy away from wanting both the countries to go into war in order to avenge. Many went on to claim a political hand in the staged attack in the wake of the country’s general selections creating a faltering belief in the governance of the country.

In 2018, the country also saw rising religious conflicts regarding the release of the movie ‘Padmavat’ by extremist groups in Rajasthan that condemned the movie stating that it violated and looked down upon their fictional queen, Padmavati. As trivial as it sounds, the cause caught the fire across the nation condemning the release of the movie and sending death threats to the producer and the actors. The censor board was forced to halt the release and further asked for a name change under which the movie was released later for ‘pure entertainment purposes’.

In 2018, the Lok Sabha passed a bill against Triple talaq which gives the right to a Muslim man to divorce his wife by simple uttering ‘talaq’ three times in a row. The bill put a penalty on a Muslim man to do so and gave empowering rights to Muslim women. However, the controversy around the bill stood strong. Many critics stated that the passing of such a law pointed to the loophole that lies within such a decision and seemed to allegedly focus on Islamic groups. In 2019, the Triple talaq bill still awaits consideration from the Rajya Sabha where the opposition stood strong against it stating any hurry could not guarantee the smooth functioning of the house.

Furthermore, over the years since 2014 and enforcement of campaigns such as Make in India, demonetization and GST had left the public more confused than ever. While the purpose of such campaigns was to fish out the illegal money out of pockets, the demonetization campaign was a failure hampering mostly the poorer sections of the society whose lives’ seemed to have changed overnight. With the poor making up the majority of the country’s population and cash, being the major transaction symbol, the ban of notes affected the agricultural economy at large. People’s interaction with various media houses focussed on their struggle of standing hours in an ATM line and banks in order to change their savings at home into legal currency.

In addition to that, while ‘Make in India’ campaign seek to increase the use of Indian made products and to increase employment rates, the campaign seemed to have increased the tariffs on imported goods along the way. With that, the unemployment rate remains the lowest calculated since the 1970s.Furthermore, the controversies surrounding the National Security also arose with reference to the stolen Rafale deal files, the Pulwama attack of February 2019, and the curious case of the election timings which further puts PM Modi in dim light. But, while the trade and economy seemed to have halted, the praise for the ruling government does not seem to have died down among the lower society with the promises.  While the educated class might go on to question the motives behind the silence, simple people find their happiness as long as their basic need for ‘Right to Life’ is fulfilled. Does that put the current government under a shadow?

Does that make India ready to make a decision for its life of the next 4 years? With community gaps widening, concerned defence lines and the lower strata being the ones caught up in the economic jargon, while the rich escape with the bare minimum makes one ponder – if the nation actually holds true to equality of all its citizens? In conclusion to the stated argument above, it is rather a wonder if India has failed to live up to its reputation of a democracy.


About the Author: Adyasha Mishra, is a 21-year-old aspiring journalist searching her way through her typing clicks on her laptop, fancy clothes and an awkward smile. She writes fantasies in the hope of changing reality and to communicate real life fantasies; wishing that someday and somewhere it will open someone’s heart. Find her on her Instagram @just.sasha.things